Category Archives: Repentance

2 Samuel 24

The Problem With This King

Discussion Question

What has 2 Samuel taught you about Jesus?

Background (Context)

Chapters 21 to 24 are the epilogue to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. David’s song in Chapter 22 accompanies Hannah’s song of 1 Samuel 2. While we’ve watched David ride into battles to defeat the enemy, the song describes a very animated YahWeh who rides on angel’s wings to victory. Chapters 21 to 23 describe a kingdom that is very optimistic in the eyes of the LORD. Sins paid for, boundaries established and the LORD Himself praised. David reflects on the blessings of his kingdom and concludes that God must be for him.

The final chapter now and we are reminded that the kingdom of David falls short of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Read 2 Samuel 24

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


  • The LORD’s anger on David (1-9)
  • How the LORD punished David (10-15)
  • The mercy of the LORD (16-19)
  • The cost of repentance (20-25)

The LORD’s anger against Israel (1-9)

“Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel…” We heard last of God’s anger against Israel in Chapter 21 and earlier in 6:7. His anger is not against David but against Israel and we are not given a reason why. Perhaps it is in connection to the growing troubles of Chapters 19 and 20. The reason is not important as we can trust that the LORD is righteous when he judges.

“…and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” Before I tackle the theological trick of this Verse, let me observe that the separating of Israel and Judah in this perhaps suggests that it is the divisions forming in the nation who are not submitting to the king’s rule in truth that the LORD has issues with. I cannot press too firmly though. Now, the LORD’s anger is not against David but against Israel, but He will incite David to take the census which David will later regard as his own sin (V10). We need not believe that God spoke into David’s ear but that God allowed this willful plan of David’s to play out in order to discipline Israel. 1 Chronicles 21:1 tells us that it was Satan who gave David the thought. Job 1 comes to mind as we consider the persuasive power of Satan only being allowed to happen at the will of God. Rather than delivering David from temptation, God allows Satan to influence David in line with his plans to judge Israel. This interaction between God’s righteous will and the evil plans of Satan and men is not rare in the bible and must be included in our theology. Remember the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis and the story of Judas betraying Jesus? The census is not the initial problem but the story introduces us to the topic of God’s anger against Israel. The census and David’s sin in conducting it will be the means by which God punishes Israel. There is no simple cause and effect in this story but the idea of God’s plans and man’s agenda interweaving in layers of intricacy. A child does not die because it sinned nor their parent (necessarily) but that the child is part of a sinful world. God’s grand plan includes many small decisions that we take part in.

“…enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.” A census is not inherently evil. God instructed Moses to count the people in Numbers because they were needed to enter the Promised Land and take it. David has no need to count his men. But Satan sowed a seed of thought to David, who took the bait and this plan will result in a portion of his people losing their life.

“The king’s word…overruled Joab…” In a rare switch of roles, Joab tries to change the king’s mind and think righteously. But the king’s mind was made up. No council of men was able to stop him from counting to see how strong his country was.

“…gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.” Verses 5 to 8 clearly describe a thorough work of counting. Note the slowness of God to teach His lesson. The names listed mark out the extremities of the land and some are notable from the time that Israel first entered the land to take it under God’s mighty hand.

“…In Israel there were 800,000…and in Judah 500,000.” Though Israel is the greater portion, Judah is quite strong. Together they make 1.3 million men. Just the fighting men of the nation were many. There were 600,000 that crossed the Jordan with Joshua. Add women and children and older men and priests to this list and the number is getting quite large. It is possible that the word ‘thousand’ may mean a military unit rather than 100×100. We won’t worry about details like that though. These names, the counting of the people and the reference to the Jordan ought to point us to the silliness of counting fighting men when the king ought to know that you only need one great God (1 Sam 14:6).

How the LORD punished David (10-15)

“David was conscience-stricken…’I have done a very foolish thing.’” David was conscience-stricken in 1 Samuel 24:5 when he cut a piece of Saul’s robe. The act had been done and his inner barometer of right and wrong had been pricked. Now, our consciences are not what will make us righteous before God but God has given us all an ability to gauge between right and wrong to a degree. Different people’s consciences have different measuring lines. Paul says in Romans 2 that everybody’s conscience will prove us guilty of sin – let alone the perfect judgement of God. Some people have very sensitive consciences but when they betray their own delicate laws, they are still in the wrong (see 1 Corinthians 8-10). Some people have a severely damaged conscience (see 1 Tim 1:19; Titus 1:15). Besides finding out what pleases the LORD (Ephesians 5:10), our agenda ought to strive for a clear conscience (Acts 24:16; 1 Peter 3:16). David didn’t need a prophet or seer to come and rebuke him. His conscience was pricked and this drove him to speak to God in repentance. The lesson is to never go against your own conscience.

“…take away the guilt of your servant.” David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah had been taken away and dealt with but not without consequences. 

“…the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer.” We were informed in 1 Samuel 9:9 that prophets were once called seers. 1 Samuel 22:5 mentioned Gad previously. He has been serving as David’s seer for many years now.

“Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.” David was given three bad options to choose from. All three involved the death of people in Israel and not isolated on David. Remember that God had intended from the beginning to bring judgment on Israel and this would be the means by which He did it. And it would fall on David to choose. I suppose that this is a ‘two birds with one stone’ kinda thing. Israel will be inflicted but David, who sinned by his pride and self-reliance, would now need to choose the infliction.

“Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” We may presume that David has made his choice by this answer but actually he does not make a choice out of the three. Rather, he allows God to decide. In famine, the starving will rely on the provision of men but God can still be merciful here. In battle, Israel may die at the hands of men but it is always God who delivers from battle. No, it seems that David is leaving even the choice of the three, not in his hands, a mere man, but in the hands of the merciful God. I am often reminded that God’s mercy is always greater than men. Any time we accuse God of being too harsh, let’s remember that he is always kinder than men can be. 

“…and 70,000 of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.” This is a region mostly occupied by Judah (including the regions of Dan, Judah and Simeon). David had counted fighting men but the plague did not discriminate. It may have worked out to be a small percentage of the population but it was still 70,000 people.

The mercy of the LORD (16-19)

“…the LORD relented concerning the disaster…” This is the mercy of God as his falls short of complete destruction. The city of Jerusalem was saved. This was the location of the ark of the covenant. And the place where God had promised to David that his ‘house’ would stand forever (referring to David’s dynasty). The mercy of God and the promises of God are what hold back the wrath of God.

“…said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough!”” Again, as with the work of Satan inciting David to sin and God allowing that to happen, it is the work of those who God has sent (angel/messenger) that the destruction is delivered.

“The angel of the LORD…” Ge 16:7; 19:13; Ex 12:23; Ac 12:23.

“…I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep…Let your hand fall on me…” Even in David’s sin, he gives us future hope that one day there would be a Good Shepherd who will lay down His life for His sheep. John 10:11. This prayer of David’s seems to happen after the LORD relented but is quite possible that this is just David’s perspective of events. David’s prayer initiates instructions to David on what to do but we already know that the LORD has stopped the plague from running its full course (of 3 days). I suggest we have God’s perspective in Verse 16 and David’s perspective from Verse 17 on. What God saw and what David saw. Another element of the layers of how God works. He doesn’t simply sit back and wait for our prayers and pleas, nor does He ignore them.

“So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad.” God shows His mercy in giving David instructions on what to do. God is able to provide ways for forgiveness. 

The cost of repentance (20-25)

“May the LORD your God accept you.” This is the hope. But He won’t just accept David as he is. A sacrifice was asked for. The man named Araunah could not simply put all that was his onto this sinner and expect God to accept him. But Jesus would one day provide the sacrifice that is needed for the sinner without cost.

“…the threshing floor…” We know from 2 Chronicles 3:1 that Solomon would build the Temple of the LORD at Mount Moriah on this very land that David bought for the altar on this day. The end of 1-2 Samuel concludes with a rather lengthy description of how this land was acquired. It links clearly this story of David making atoning sacrifice for the sheep of Israel and the same place that Solomon would dedicate as the house of the LORD where all future sacrifices ought to take place. 

“…I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Of course, it doesn’t make sense for a sacrifice to not cost you anything. The point of the sacrifice is that it hurts you somewhat. The animal sacrifice required your best sheep and cattle, not the average or worst of the herd. But the bible teaches us that no amount of sacrifice is sufficient to pay for all our sins. We keep sinning and need to offer more and more sacrifices. Therefore, at just the right time, Christ Jesus came into the world as a sacrifice for sins – once for all – the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. The death of Christ has cost us nothing. And there is now no sacrifice left to give.

“Then the LORD answered his prayer…and the plague on Israel was stopped.” When David offered the right sacrifice in the right place then the wrath of God on Israel stopped. This coincided with the relenting of God earlier. God made way for sin to be forgiven, the price to be paid, and the wrath to be propitiated. I think we are now ready to offer a meaning to this story.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

On the Old Testament side of the cross, the relationship of God to Israel is still about blessings and curses. But when the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, the wrath of God is stopped without a cost to the sheep. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. King David closes the books of 1 and 2 Samuel as a shepherd to the sheep of Israel who offered a sacrifice as prescribed by God to stop the plague on the people. Thank God that because of Jesus, the wrath of God is satisfied.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Conscience-stricken. Acts 24:16 and 1 Timothy 1:19 place listening to your conscience as a high priority. Some have shipwrecked their faith because they have ignored their conscience. The conscience is a kind of barometer of right and wrong. It does not trump God’s word but allows us to respond mentally to choose the right and reject the wrong. Our conscience is not the law. But failing to listen to our conscience leads to sin. We sharpen our conscience skills by learning from God’s word – sometimes sharpening it to say no to ungodliness, and sometimes to soften it because we learn to understand grace better. But we don’t abandon it. Our conscience is a gift of God as part of his design for us to choose between right and wrong. Coming to Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit even allows us to say no to ungodliness in a way that people without the Spirit cannot. Titus 2:12.

Topic B: Now no condemnation. Romans 8:1 begins the wonderful celebratory Chapter with these words: therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… The cross of Christ has achieved for us something that the sacrificial system could never achieve. David was able to sing in Chapter 22 and 23 that he is right before God and yet in Chapter 24 was in need to offer sacrifice for himself and the land. Living on this side of the cross gives us such a freedom that has not been fully realised for thousands of years before. Sure, Jesus death also covered over the sins of those who feared God and walked with Him by faith in the Old Testament, but they were unable to sing: no condemnation now. Praise God for all that He has done for us in Christ!

Topic C: The wrath of God and the propitiation for sin. On the flip side of Topic B is this topic. Without a successful offering, the wrath of God is not satisfied. There remains for all who trust in their own righteousness (like David counting the strength of his army) condemnation. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

2 Samuel 19:9-20:26

A King Returns

Discussion Question

Might this world see another revival in the West? Or has the West deserted Christ with no hope of return?

Background (Context)

David took the news of Absalom’s death hard. He was rebuked by Joab, the commander of his army, to show love to the people who have served him. David sat at the entrance of Mahanaim and 2 Samuel 19:8 reported that all of Israel (the people who had followed Absalom) fled to their homes. The war has been won and the one who raised his hand against the king has been killed. But the kingdom has been damaged.

Read 2 Samuel 19:9-20:26

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


  • The tribes of Israel repent and turn to the king (9-20)
  • Reminders of the gentle and kind kingdom (21-30)
  • Barzillai and Kimham (31-40)
  • Ten shares in the king (40-43)
  • The trouble with Sheba (20:1-7)
  • The return of Joab (8-13)
  • Abel Beth Maakah (14-22)
  • The king’s men (23-26)

The tribes of Israel repent and turn to the king (9-20)

“Throughout the tribes of Israel, all the people were arguing among themselves…” What we see in Verses 9 to 20 is the aftermath of a rebellion gone wrong. David had proven himself to be a great king – delivering Israel from their enemies in the past. There had been a rebellion and David fled from his son. But the son is dead and now they argue about how and when they should restore David as king. It would seem that the country is sorry for what has happened. The news of this discussion reaches the ear of the king and so he sends messages to his own people in Judea.

“Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back…’” This could be reworded as, ‘Judah, my people, you ought to be the first to bring me back. Why delay?’

“And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood…commander of my army for life in place of Joab.’” David is clearly not happy with Joab. Although Joab had acted justly and perhaps mercifully toward David by killing Absalom, David has in mind to remove Joab as a commander and keep Amasa in his place. Amasa had been delegated leader under Absalom. While Joab has always been loyal to David, his methods have been hard in contrast to David’s kindness. This decision has the added effect of winning over the hearts of the men of Judah. 

“The king returned and went as far as the Jordan.” He had been in Mahanaim on the east of the Jordan. This river marks a major eastern perimeter to the Promised Land.

“Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal…” It was in 1 Samuel 11 that Israel made Saul king over them in Gilgal. The history of making kings in Israel has not been a smooth and faultless one. 2 Samuel 19 is about a people who had risen up against David who now wish to repent and draw near to him. Firstly, the people argued about their predicament, then David sent messages to ask why they don’t bring him back. As they meet him now at Gilgal, we meet some named characters to put flesh on this time of awkward submission.

“Shimei son of Gera…” He was the man who threw dirt and rocks down on David’s head as he marched out of Jerusalem (Chapter 16:5ff). He will speak to David in Verse 19 but we meet some other names running with him. Ziba had appeared. He also appeared in Chapter 16 with the appearance of being a great friend. He brought provisions for the king to be refreshed. David had blessed Ziba for his apparent faithfulness. He allowed Shimei to curse him since this may very well have been a discipline from God. What happens next in Chapter 19 is a part 2 to those encounters in Chapter 16.

“…Shimei…fell prostrate before the king and said, ‘…I have sinned…’” When David was cursed by Shimei, he told Abishai not to harm the man. Now the same man who was once David’s enemy is repentant and asking that his actions be not remembered. How will David handle this?

Reminders of the gentle and kind kingdom (21-30)

“Abishai son of Zeruiah said, ‘Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this?…’” Good question. He admitted to doing wrong. What David does in response is tricky to analyse. On the one hand, David is able to once again show the compassion and kindness that is characteristic of the kingdom of God. When a man repents sincerely, he is welcomed home. On the other hand, David has been frustrated with this family of Zeruiah (the mother of Abishai and Joab). “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah.” Zeruiah was one of David’s own sisters. So Abishai and Joab were his nephews.

“Should anyone be put to death in Israel today?” Another good question. Shouldn’t people be put to death for treason? Or is forgiveness offered in David’s kingdom. For Shimei, who had personified hostile rejection of David, pardon was granted. He has David’s word that he will not die. 

“Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?” Little Shebby had received such grace from David back in Chapter 9. A descendant of Saul was given a place at the King’s table along with the King’s men and family. A man with no earthly value in the kingdom was allowed to eat every night at the King’s side. Ziba had reported to David in Chapter 16 that Shebby had abandoned David. We read now that Shebby had exercised a sort of fast while the king was in exile. He did not look after his legs. This is not the actions of a man happy to be free of David but one who is in grief.

“…Ziba my servant betrayed me. And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king…” Shebby’s whole speech in Verses 26 to 28 is filled with humility, truth and submission. He comes to the king now with nothing to be guilty of but still bows to the king’s will.

“Mephibosheth said…Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely.” There is no sign of deceit from Shebby. He has a true dedication to David despite his reward or lack of it.

So we have seen a confessed rebel (Shimei) receive pardon from sin. We have heard how Ziba cheated a man out of his inheritance but because the King had given the land to Ziba, he does not take back his promise. A faithful servant (Shebby) is happy again because the kingdom has been restored, his own inheritance is worth nothing compared to being returned to the king. And Abishai is rebuked for not understanding the kindness of this kingdom.

Barzillai and Kimham (31-40)

“The king kissed Barzillai and bid him farewell, and Barzillai returned to his home. When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him.” Barzillai had provided for David in Mahanaim (17:27-29) and also helped David on his was to return to Jerusalem. His heart was for David and his kingdom but his age was against continuing in the journey. He had worked hard to care for David as he had. This is the end of his journey but he passes on to Kimham the joy of going with David. Kimham is described as David’s servant but is likely to be a son of Barzillai (see 1 Kings 2:7). 

Ten shares in the king (40-43)

“All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over.” This is a status report in the story. We have the king being returned by his kin in Judah but there is still only half of Israel that have returned. And this leads us to what happens next.

“We have ten shares in the king…But the men of Judah pressed their claims even more forcefully that the men of Israel.” The sad story of the nation of Israel is that they have often failed to be as one. Judah appeared to be doing nothing wrong and wouldn’t admit to anything foul they were doing. What would they admit to? But the ten tribes of Israel were frustrated with their brother’s apparent ownership of David. Who were the ten tribes? It would seem Judah and Benjamin are excluded from the ten. In 1 Kings 11 ten tribes are allotted to Jeroboam, it excluded Judah and Benjamin. We have here the continued story of the sons of Jacob (renamed Israel) who fight and quarrel.

The trouble with Sheba (20:1-7)

“Now a troublemaker named Sheba…” No sooner had David begun to return Jerusalem that there was another rebel rise up to take the men of Israel with him. David, unlike his actions toward Absalom, was determined to stop this rebellion. David sent Amasa to get Sheba but Amasa did not return. With no news, David may presume that Sheba has acquired the help of Amasa also. Abishai is sent to deal with Sheba. Joab and his men go in pursuit also.

The return of Joab (8-13)

“Without being stabbed again, Amasa died.” Amasa had not expected Joab to jab him. Why had Amasa been delayed? Perhaps he had not changed sides but was just taking longer than everyone expected to get the job done. Joab is not interested in a reunion. He makes out like he is greeting Amasa as a brother but drives his sword into Amasa who dies quickly. Amasa had taken Joab’s place as commander of the army. Joab does not agree with this situation.

“When [one of Joab’s men] realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road…” One man was clearly behind Joab and ready to encourage all to follow him. Everyone saw their alternate leader dead on the road. The distraction and confusion was literally removed from site so that the mission could continue.

Abel Beth Maakah (14-22)

“Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel’…” This little resolution in Verses 14-22 illustrates the diversity found inside the people of Israel. This little city of Abel Beth Maakah had a reputation for peace and wisdom. To tear this down would be a tragedy. Sheba is described as coming from Ephraim – which will future be renowned as the rebellious capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Joab’s force had come up to the peaceful city where Sheba had taken refuge. But this wise woman had no intentions of harbouring a rebel of the king. So, off with his head. Problem solved. Too easy.

The king’s men (23-26)

“Joab was over Israel’s entire army…” This man had reinstated himself into this powerful position. He was not a rebel to the king but neither was he akin to the gentle ways of the king. The feeling of Verses 23-26 is that things have returned to normal but how much is David really in charge of things? The kingdom is back in order with all the places filled at the top. No mention is given of David being the king.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Chapter 19 reminded us again of the compassion and kindness of the King who is ready to welcome and forgive. Yet to those who have butted heads against this approach in the past, the king is not so friendly toward. Joab doesn’t seem to fit and yet he is still there. The faithful and repentant rebels are all welcome in the kingdom of David. But his kingdom displayed cracks of disunity which are growing greater and greater. The king of God under Jesus Christ is a kingdom that also receives repentant sinners with gladness and joy and yet the brothers and sisters in this kingdom are instructed to live in unity. Where there is division there is a weak house. Wisdom says, chop off the head of the persistent rebels.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Can God forgive anybody? Shemai was forgiven. After times of persecution in church history, men and women who had denied Christ wanted to return to church fellowship. Many found this difficult to swallow.

Topic B: Letting the next generation take the baton. Kimham was given reward from David for what his father had done for David. It must be hard for those who love the Lord and have lived long and many years leading and teaching and discipling others, to be unable to do as much as they used to for the kingdom. Of course I am not suggesting that they are ‘passed it’ and we ought to find ways for young Christians to learn from experienced Christians – but energy goes with the young.

Topic C: Disunity in the church. The New Testament commands us to love one another from the heart. We are to avoid quarrels, bear with one another and forgive as the Lord forgives us. The call to unity is to be carried out within a local church group and congregation. Also amongst the congregations but also beyond our own parish or denomination. Unity is to be founded in our loyalty to the King and the gospel of grace. But when we are brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s work hard at putting the mission first.

2 Samuel 18:18-19:8

A King’s Lament

Discussion Question

What makes good news good? Can you remember some news you received that brought you joy? Why did it do that?

Background (Context)

David, the king of Israel, had a rebel son named Absalom. This son was aiming to kill David in order to take and keep his throne. David’s will was for his son to be treated gently on the battlefield. Against David’s wishes, Joab and his men killed Absalom and so rid the king of the one who was raising his hand against the king. There was nobody left to grieve for Absalom. But David had been blessed by many people who were faithful to him and were willing to die for him.

Read 2 Samuel 18:19-19:8

Link to the passage at BibleGateway…

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Who will take the good news to David? (19-23)
  • Hoping for good news (24-27)
  • The good news is delivered (28-32)
  • Grief over the news (33-19:8)

Who will take the good news to David? (19-23)

“Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok…” Remember Zadok was one of the priests who attend to the ark and Ahimaaz is his son who sent the message of Absalom’s plans to David. He risked his life to get that news to David.

“Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.” Ahimaaz was eager to be the one to bring the news to the king. It was good news. The threat to the kingdom is over and the LORD has brought deliverance from the enemy. The language created by Ahimaaz is like the Psalms of David when he has been rescued from his enemies (See Psalm 18!). We shall have singing and praise in the land because the LORD is good.

“…you must not [take the news] today, because the king’s son is dead.” The news is good but this is about the King’s son. The good news that Ahimaaz is excited to give includes the tragic news that David’s son is dead. Joab was a smart man and he knew that this would be awkward news to deliver to the king.

“Then Joab said to the Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen’.” Joab sends a foreigner rather than the son of a priest. A prudent choice given Joab does not know how David will react. His instruction was to tell the king what he has seen. There is no spin or lies but go and let the king know what has happened.

“My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.” Great question. Why does Ahimaaz need to go? He was part of the adventure when he set out in Chapter 17 to bring news to David. Now that the battle is over, he wants to close the deal with the message. He won’t take no for an answer. He is so excited by the outcome of David’s victory that he must go and tell David! He loves this good news.

“Ahimaaz … outran the Cushite.” He was finally let go by Joab and told to run! So he ran and he ran in a direction that saved him time and got him there first. Two people are racing to bring news of the victory to David. Both carry the same message. One is sent by order and the second is allowed to go because of his enthusiasm. We may believe that the Cushite is now wasting his energy. Or we wonder what plan does Ahimaaz have? Is he wise or foolish?

Hoping for good news (24-27)

“While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates…” We find David staying back in Mahanaam as his troops had advised him to do but not in the comfort of his house. He is anxious to know what is going to happen and also, perhaps, ready to protect the city if things go pear-shaped (2 Samuel 18:3). A watchman is in a position to give the king warning of any coming news or threat.

“If he is alone, he must have good news.” I am not sure where this wisdom comes from. This book called 2 Samuel opened with a single messenger coming to David with a mixed report. How one person running is any indication of good news, I’m not completely sure. It could be exciting news of victory or anxious news of warning. While this could be a true statement, I feel that David is full of wishful thinking. He wants to hear good news. But what he expects that good news to be is unclear. Either his troops are safe or Absalom is safe – David somehow hopes for both to be true.

“And the runner came closer and closer.” There’s a Monty Python scene where two knights at the entrance of a castle watch Sir Lancelot approach them running from a distance. Probably my favourite scene from “The Holy Grail”. Enough said.

“He must be bringing good news, too.” Where is David getting this logic? Surely he just wants things to turn out well and is hoping. Note well the phrase, ‘good news’, as we get closer to the meaning of this story.

The good news is delivered (28-32)

“All is well!…Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.” This is the same essence of the message that Ahimaaz said he would bring to the king. It really is good news. God has won the victory and the people of God who are for God have been delivered. This is a report of deliverance, redemption, salvation! All is well because God wins.

“The king asked, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’” We see that this is at the forefront of David’s mind and the news is incomplete until he hears what has become of his son. We remember that he had commanded the three leaders of all his troops to be gentle with Absalom. But Absalom had been decidedly killed and discarded by Joab.

“Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.” Some have argued that Ahimaaz is not hiding the truth at this point but is speaking what he truly knew. I only mention that for the reader to ponder but I cannot make sense of Verse 20 if Ahimaaz doesn’t know the answer to David’s question. Absalom, the king’s son, is dead and Ahimaaz knows that. Why hide this truth? I suggest because Ahimaaz wants the good news to only contain good news for all. He is not willing to deliver the whole truth to the king. He knows that the Cushite is behind and will give the bad news. We are given this distinction of two messages: one that is half the story and the other which is complete. Both messengers are delivering the ‘good news’ but only one has the complete story. Ahimaaz wants to be a messenger with only good things to say.

“The king said, ‘Stand aside and wait here.’” We are reminded that the king is most concerned about the news of Absalom. The news that God has delivered his men and his kingdom has not sparked joy in David’s heart. He is anxious for his son. Ahimaaz has not received the thank you and joy that he had hoped for.

“The the Cushite arrived and said, ‘My lord the king, hear the good news!…’” The news that he gives the king is closer matched to Ahimaaz’ planned message of Verse 19. Again, the good news is that God has given victory and vindicated David – restored his kingdom. Those who rose up against David have been defeated – that is good news.

“Is the young man Absalom safe?” David wants to know how this news played out for Absalom.

“May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” The Cushite’s answer is not direct but it is clear. Absalom has received what all the enemies of the king ought to get. Absalom was the head of all those who rose up against the king and God has delivered the king from his enemies. This means the enemy being removed – killed. The good news includes justice delivered. That is the whole news. The Cushite is the gospel messenger who gives the whole story of the good news. God has one and evil is destroyed. People who are against God and His people are judged and the sentence delivered.

Grief over the news (33-19:8)

“The king was shaken” His son is dead and his fears have been realised. This is David’s emotional response to the news and we must allow him his humanity which we just cannot predict of ourselves. Pragmatics and logic just don’t fix the way we respond to bad news. 

“He went up to the room over the gateway and wept.” The place where he wept will add to the problem of his response as we continue. All those arriving back from battle through that gate will hear the king weeping loudly over this news.

“O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” You can’t miss the grief in this sentence. And all the troops will get this message as they arrive home. His love for his son was real. He had failed to guide and protect his son – to discipline and mould this rebellious son – but he loved him. And in this very emotional Verse we also see the path forward for rebellious sinners in the bible: If only I had died instead of you. This is how God will ultimately deliver the kingdom from the enemy – he will die for the enemy! Mark 10:45; Romans 5:6-11. But that is for Jesus to accomplish. We may pick up that the king’s son had to die in order for victory to be won. While that is a true statement, it seems too thin to point to Jesus – the Son who died for us. Absalom was a rebel. David’s desire in grief to die in the sinner’s place is the strong link to the gospel.

“Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’” The story of David and Joab has been a contrast between two hearts. David is described as gentle (NIV: weak) and Joab described as hard (NIV: strong). David’s desire to be gentle with Absalom may or may not be a righteous one. It is unclear. Is he thinking like a man of God or like the father of a wayward son? Is it a bit of both? But Joab decided to disobey the king and he killed Absalom. He performed justice on the rebel child. Only Jesus is able to react in perfection to all of this complexity. He is able to weep for the sinner and die for him. He is able to set the prisoner free and preach hell to those who will not come to the kingdom. But in 2 Samuel, we have the king and Joab. Both are right and both are imperfect.

“Then Joab went into the house to the king and said…” Verses 5-7 contain a very heated rebuke from Joab to the king. This is not a time for Joab to comfort the king for his loss because the king is not being a king to his people right now. Verse 6 is perhaps a step too far to say that David hates those who love him but this is Joab’s reaction. David’s men have risked their lives to save and David only cares about the man who was prepared to kill David and all his family. This seems unjust, unfair, unloving, uncaring, selfish and wrong – especially for the king.

It takes my mind to the Psalms of crying out to God – ‘How long O LORD?’ The Psalms that report that the wicked are getting everything and the righteous are getting beaten and mocked. Where is your justice God? Where is the side of the ‘good news’ that reports that evil has been punished?

“So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway…” Absalom had gone to the gate of the city to head of the people from the country and tell them that the king is too busy. Well, now the king is not too busy and he is ready to be seen by all of his people. He is ready to be their king.

“Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.” These were the Israelites who had backed Absalom. The story sets us up for the new problem: what will happen to Israel, who had deserted David. And will David be king over all Israel again?

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Good News of the deliverance of God includes the news that the enemy has been defeated. The good news is about justice and righteousness. The only way that the good news is good for the enemy is when their guilt is taken away. Ahimaaz only wanted to share the happy news of the good news. David focused on the grief of the good news. In the end, the Good News is that there is a King in heaven who has died instead of us, that all need to hear that he is waiting to call home all sinners, but those who will not repent and bow before him will be denied the Kingdom of Heaven. Our King is with us and ‘at the gate’ ready to welcome us and hear our prayer. The victory is won. Jesus is the King.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The 2 ways to live message that excludes justice. The gospel message goes further than saying that God is real and that Jesus loves you. It says that if you do not respond then you remain condemned (John 3:18, 36). Our God is for us. But this is only news to rejoice in for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8 is an amazing chapter in the new testament – well worth reading regularly! But it is about the joy of our relationship in Christ – not just knowledge of God. For salvation to be true for us, we must have obedience to the great exchange at the cross. We must understand that the cross means punishment dealt out on the Son when it should have been me (or you).  Justice has been met in the Son of God. For all who do not believe and do not receive Jesus as their LORD, are not received as children of God but will remain outside of his protection. So, how can we include a dash of pepper to our talk of Jesus to those outside the kingdom?

Topic B: Good grief. David’s sorrow is plain to see in 18:33 to 19:4. Too many of his children (one is enough) have died. David knew sorrow. And he was not a man too tough to express his feelings as many of them are written in the psalms. To make it harder, his grief was for his son who had rebelled and not died under the banner of love and faithfulness. How can we find joy in times like that?! It’s tragic that people are not flocking to the Kingdom of God before it is too late. Psalm 2:10-12 gives us our number one mission in life: serve the LORD with fear. The loss of our loved ones who have not understood the love of God ought to remind us to remain in his love and serve him with fear. We leave the departed in His hands – He is good and will do what is just.